Net Neutrality: Next Exit

The repeal of net neutrality has started a conversation inside and outside of schools.

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Net Neutrality: Next Exit

Graphics by Sarah Funk

Graphics by Sarah Funk

Graphics by Sarah Funk

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Approaching the vote regarding net neutrality, or the open internet, a large controversy has sparked. Many have taken to social media to voice their displeasure, and some accuse the repeal of potentially “shutting down the internet.” Though its popularity and support has increased, people are still unsure of what the loss of net neutrality entails.

According to Angele Gilroy, author of “Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate,” net neutrality is defined as “the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the internet the same and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment or method of communication.” Under these principles, ISPs are unable to intentionally block, slow down or charge for specific websites and online content. Some students know that net neutrality exists, but many don’t know the origin. Net neutrality calls into question our control of the internet and often our principle of free speech.

“I think the repeal has the potential to be very threatening to our country’s democracy,” senior Emily Jevarjian said. “Net neutrality is key in the free flow of information on the internet. I think our democracy is already on the line because of the fact that three people were able to make this change that over 80 percent of the population does not support.”

Since 2015, net neutrality regulations have been in effect, giving everyone access to the internet. In January, Ajit Pai was appointed as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as part of President Donald Trump’s administration. Previously, the FCC agreed upon distributing broadband service, or high-speed access to the internet, as a “utility,” similar to electricity and telephone service. However, Pai proposed a repeal to previous net neutrality acts, comparable to dividing the internet into “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” depending on how much someone is willing to pay for services.

Many people have spoken out against the repeal, including students.

“I think it’s really important to vote against the net neutrality repeal,” senior Peyton Smith said. “People don’t realize it will prohibit many of the things we use. Some things that we use daily, we won’t be able to use anymore. It’s like Prohibition but for the internet; it’s gonna suck.”

If repealed, net neutrality would change the way internet users go about their daily lives. Many large ISPs would benefit, as they could control prices of premium services, while on the other hand, many small online businesses feel they would need to fight for fast connections, as prices would rise to keep up with big corporations.

“An example of their possible control is that Verizon owns Yahoo,” senior Adam Al-Nsour said. “So if you have Verizon, they could choose to not let you use other search engines like Google or Bing. You may not like Yahoo that much, and they could make you pay more for other search engines, or just not let you use them at all.”
Net neutrality protects equal usage of the internet, and for competing businesses going against large corporations, it means an equal playing field. For small businesses, which are considered to be the “backbone of the American economy,” this repeal could cause harm.

“I think that smaller businesses will be more than ever dominated by the larger companies due to the fact that internet service providers can make deals with other large companies to limit the general and already limited accessibility of smaller companies or rival companies,” freshman John Favret said.

Despite hundreds of protests and nearly 22 million public comments on social media, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality on Dec. 14. Many businesses have also begun to react to the repeal of an open internet. Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Vimeo and others have taken to social media, stating their displeasure with the vote’s result. Vimeo announced on Twitter that they intend to challenge the decision in court.

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was a dissenting voice in the commission’s decision.

“This is not acceptable,” Rosenworcel said in her response to the repeal. “It is a stain on the FCC and this proceeding. This issue is not going away. It needs to be addressed.”

While big businesses and politicians have a lot to say, so do students.

“It does suck that we’ll have to probably pay a slight increase to our internet providers monthly and what we post will be censored more,” Smith said. “It’s just worse now in a sense because of course we as people suffer from the deficit.”

Though the FCC voted to repeal, the journey to net neutrality’s disappearance is not over. Several steps can be taken to preserve net neutrality that many citizens have encouraged officials to pursue. Congress has the power to overrule the FCC’s decision with the Congressional Review Act, which authorizes Congress to override any federal agency’s ruling. There are also several lawsuits that will likely be initiated and the possibility of local and state laws protecting net neutrality will be introduced.

“At this point, congressmen are the only people that can stop this repeal from reaching the states, and I just hope that enough of us are reaching out to them and taking action to put a stop to this,” Jevarjian said.

The Democratic Party may challenge the decision, which could take up to a year to be heard in court, and there will likely be more time on top of that before anything is put into action.

There is still an opportunity to fight to keep net neutrality in effect. Contributor Evan Greer of the Huffington Post says there’s a way for open internet supporters to have a say.

“The organizations behind Battle For The Net are launching a new campaign to demand that Congress step in and restore net neutrality via the Congressional Review Act (CRA),” Greer said in a recent Huffington Post article. “The CRA lets elected officials in Congress overrule actions taken by federal agencies like the FCC, and it’s different from a normal bill because it only requires a simple majority in the Senate and House to pass.”

Chances are that net neutrality will be alive for a while until the decision on the repeal is put to rest, but this path through the CRA is only available to use within 60 legislative days before it goes into effect. There is still a fight for an open internet, but the days are numbered.

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